Hospital beds are running out
Hundreds of students walked out of class in New York on Tuesday - a "walkout" in protest, organized in several schools at once. The children and teenagers did not feel safe, their spokespeople explained, as classes were scheduled to start again after the vacations. About ten percent of students and four percent of teachers in New York schools have recently tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the health department. Students are demanding a return to virtual classes because of it.
But the New York City school board won't budge and is sticking with face-to-face instruction, as are many others around the country. In the United States, there are growing signs that authorities and politicians are backing coexistence with the coronavirus in the face of skyrocketing infection figures, and not just in schools. The California state government decided this week that health care workers can return to work "immediately" if they test positive but are asymptomatic.
Anthony Fauci, chief adviser to President Joe Biden on coronavirus, said Tuesday that the virus "will end up finding pretty much everyone." It will hit the unvaccinated especially hard, he said. Most people would get Covid-19, Janet Woodcock, acting chairwoman of the National Food and Drug Administration, also said at a Senate hearing. In the face of such forecasts, the government wants above all to ensure the functioning of critical infrastructure.
The curve of new infections is now pointing virtually vertically upward on a national average - even though there has been recent news from New York and New Jersey, for example, of a possible "plateau" in the Omicron wave, which New York Governor Kathy Hochul called a "glimmer of hope." Last week, an average of 754,200 people tested positive for the coronavirus each day nationwide. Never has the number of new infections been so high. An average of 1,646 infected people died daily, a third more than the week before. According to authorities, the Omicron mutant is now responsible for 98 percent of infections. The course of the disease may be milder with this variant. But the mass of infections is nevertheless putting hospitals in a tight spot.
There are currently about 146,000 Covid patients in hospitals in the United States, twice as many as two weeks ago. Especially where the number of vaccinated is low, there are bottlenecks in care - also because many hospitals have been closed in rural areas in recent years. If ventilators were lacking at the beginning of the pandemic, the problem now is more a shortage of staff and beds.
Earlier this week, Virginia's governor declared a state of emergency, allowing hospitals to increase their bed counts. New Jersey also reinstated a medically based emergency rule. The state of Kentucky mobilized the National Guard to help at hundreds of hospitals and practices. Texas plans to address the crisis with thousands of new hires - 2700 additional medical workers are to be deployed. The shortages are also affecting patients who need to go to the hospital for other illnesses - for example, to have cancer surgery.
For quite a few patients, Covid infection is not detected until they come to the hospital for other reasons. New York physicians recently interviewed by The New York Times reported that between one-third and one-half of all patients admitted to the hospital are infected. Nationwide statistics on such cases are lacking, but they are included in overall infection and hospitalization data.
Doctors also report that mostly unvaccinated people are dying of Covid - and that they are younger than in previous waves, often between forty and fifty years old. According to media reports, however, the number of people who have to go to the hospital despite being vaccinated against Corona is also rising - and this mainly affects people who have not received a booster vaccination.
At least one in five Americans is not vaccinated at all, or 65 million people. Sixty-two percent of residents have been immunized with the scheduled one or two initial doses - but only 23 percent have received the booster. According to experts, the booster is needed to provide adequate protection against severe and fatal outcomes when infected with the omicron variant.
Former President Donald Trump then also appealed in an interview to his supporters, among whom are many vaccine refusers. Politicians, too, must say that they have been given the booster, Trump told the right-wing One America News Network. Anything else would be "cowardly." But he also took the opportunity to speak out against vaccination requirements, such as those Biden had set for the private sector.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its forecast for the coming month. Within the next four weeks, it said, more than 62,000 people could die after being infected with Covid. So far, there have been about 843,000 deaths in the United States who had contracted the coronavirus.
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